Sources on Twitter are reporting that the Baltimore Orioles are close to finalizing a deal for Ubaldo Jimenez that will pay the right hander $48 million dollars over four years, for an average annual value of $12 million a year. The good news is that the Orioles will surrender the 17th pick in the upcoming draft to the Indians for signing Jimenez away.
Assuming these reports are true, I can’t help but sit here and be a little disappointed. I know Ubaldo is not the guy we saw from July through the end of the season last year, but I also know he’s probably not the 5.00+ ERA guy we saw the years before that, either. The Orioles got an above-average starter (with a better pedigree than that) for a relatively cheap deal, and I’m left wondering where the Indians were in all this.
Obviously, the Orioles signing is best-case-scenario for the Indians from a draft pick perspective; the 17th pick is a very valuable commodity both in terms of the talent pool but in terms of financial flexibility going forward. The Indians now have an increased budget with which to sign draft picks, significantly moreso than if they had gotten a sandwich or 2nd round pick from the Mariners or Blue Jays. It’s a net-positive for the franchise.
I can’t help but look at that deal and think that Ubaldo should still be in a Cleveland uniform. The Indians offered the right hander a 14-million dollar contract in order to establish draft pick compensation and then watched one of the best free agents waltz into Baltimore for less money per year than that. It doesn’t make sense.
It also doesn’t make sense to prioritize the draft when the team is ostensibly aligned to compete right now in 2014, either. I know, I know, the team is setting itself up for the future, and because of this deal there likely won’t be a total bottoming out of the roster in 2016 or 2017 (look at the 2004 and 2009 Indians to see what I mean), but I think the team in 2014 is diminished because Ubaldo will not be there.
This means the Indians will head into 2014 with a rotation with some very big question marks. More question marks than they even had in 2013, when the rotation was supposed to be a huge weakness for the team. As of today, the rotation looks like this:
SP5: Carrasco? Bauer? Marcum?
I would much rather have that cavalcade of question marks outside of our top five starters. While Bauer or Carrasco or even Marcum might be serviceable, the Indians are setting themselves up to rely on two or even all three of those names to come up with big innings this season. It may well work out, but this feels like a recipe for disaster.
Considering Ubaldo went into this offseason dreaming of $20 million a year, I can’t help but think that $12million a year should have been the kind of deal the Indians swooped in to offer in about this time… not Baltimore.
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EDIT: As stated below in the top comment by Steve, the Orioles lose the 17th pick but the Indians just pick up a sandwich round pick between the 1st and 2nd… yippee.